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The staff of the Federal Trade Commission recommended the agency block a proposed $29 billion merger of BP Amoco and Atlantic Richfield because it violates antitrust law, The New York Times said. The commission staff reportedly cited concerns that the merger would result in higher gasoline prices in the Western US unless the companies agreed to significant conditions or divestitures. On Tuesday, the FTC approved Exxon's $82 billion purchase of Mobil - creating the largest publicly traded oil company - after the companies agreed to sell certain assets.

Construction spending in the US rose 0.3 percent in October, the Commerce Department said. The jump, reflecting a sharp increase in big government projects and a pickup in residential building, follows a revised 0.1 percent decline in construction spending in September. Many analysts had expected a similar decline in October.

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The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators was unchanged in October, remaining at 107.9, the New York-based group reported. Since April, the index has risen just 0.7 percent.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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